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Friday, September 20, 2013 - 11:10am

Poor Georgians' Food Stamps At Risk

Food donation agencies are scrambling after Congress moved to cut millions of Americans from food stamps. Two million Georgians receive nutrition assistance.

The bill, passed Thursday by Congressional Republicans, would slash the food stamp program by $4 billion.

It would still have to pass the U.S. Senate. And it’s unclear the number of Georgians who would lose benefits. But food relief agencies say the legislation is already causing concern. That’s because many Georgians on food stamps are disabled, elderly or school-age.

Richard Le Ber is with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which serves 29 counties in Georgia. He says the cuts contemplated by the bill are the largest he’s ever seen.

“We’re putting our plans together for how we’re going to meet demand,” he said. “But it’s hard to predict exactly how this is going to happen because we’ve never seen these kinds of cuts before. So we’re going to be monitoring very closely what they’re seeing and how individuals in Georgia are coping with these cuts.”

Le Ber added that if enacted, the cuts would come on top of those passed as part of the stimulus bill.

Federal data released this month shows nearly 2 million Georgians don’t always have enough food for three square meals a day.

The bill has also revived about drug testing for welfare recipients. Similar to a measure passed in Georgia last year, it would allow states to require recipients of government assistance to submit to a drug test.

Georgia’s bill hasn’t gone into effect. It’s been on hold pending a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on a similar Florida measure.

Gerry Weber is an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights. He says the federal bill could also face a constitutional challenge.

“To the extent that it’s suspicion-less drug testing, where there’s not evidence that a particular person is using drugs, it’s clearly unconstitutional and it’s essentially like the Florida program, and the Georgia program, which hasn’t been enacted,” he said.

Weber says the courts have ruled on suspicion-less drug testing. The Supreme Court, for example, says that type of testing is only permissible in cases such as public safety. A school bus driver, for example, can be subject to drug-testing because their job involves safely driving children.

Georgia is in the top ten states for the number of people who go hungry.

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